Gear Review: MSR Thru-Hiker Mesh House 1
Have you been on the hunt for a lightweight shelter designed for hikers who need bug protection without unnecessary frills? Take a look at the Thru-Hiker Mesh House 1 from Mountain Safety Research. MSR designed this to be pitched with a trekking pole, or used in conjunction with a tarp when rain protection is needed. For those looking for something more than a bivvy, but lighter than many standard one-person tent options, this tent fits perfectly into that niche. Note: The tarp is not included in this tent package.
For this review, I took the Thru-Hiker Mesh House 1 out to my current national scenic trail of choice, the Florida Trail. Florida has a decent amount of bug pressure and humidity, making it a great test bed for this tiny abode.
MSR Thru-Hiker Mesh House 1 At-a-Glance
Dimensions: 33” width x 88” length x 38” height
Floor area: 20 sq. ft.
Lightweight: A recurring theme, this is a lightweight shelter option. According to my scale, this weighs 12.16 ounces with the included stuff sack and tent stakes, ten ounces for just the shelter.
Ventilation: The majority of the tent is mesh. The foot of the tent, shallow bathtub sides, and slightly higher head section are solid. This allows for good ventilation and air movement, with the exception of the foot area. Some of the other one-person tents about this size have less mesh and more silnylon, which naturally offers less ventilation.
Headroom: I alluded to this earlier, but this is a step up from a bivy in many ways. Unlike a bivy, I can sit up in this tent. Granted, I can only sit up at the far end of the head of the tent (I’m 5’8”). I consider sitting up and maintaining bug protection a nice option for something this lightweight. Also worth noting, there are one-person tents with more headroom as well. With few exceptions, most will come with a weight penalty for the extra headroom.
Side-entry door: The wide, side-entry door offers plenty of space to get in and out of the tent. I noticed it’s hard to reach the far end of the opening when inside the tent. It’s a long reach. Not the worst thing, but compressing my abdomen to reach halfway down the tent and escape for a cathole excursion is a motivating experience.
Unique bathtub floor: The corners are uniquely designed to help keep the bathtub floor upright. I like it. I like it a lot. The design prevents the bottom of the tent walls from laying inward. This means less tent wall rubbing you at night and depositing condensation on you and your sleeping bag. I’ve had this issue in other one-person tents of a similar size.
Flexible system: The shelter uses a single-trekking pole setup, without a tarp. It can also be suspended from a tree. In a pinch, hikers could substitute a branch in place of a trekking pole. For rain protection, use two trekking poles with a tarp. You can also suspend the tarp between two trees and attach the mesh tent to the tarp. Bingo, you’re completely free of trekking poles. I’m impressed with the flexibility of pitch options.
Lightweight: We pretty much covered this above, but it’s especially lightweight if you’re on a short excursion and don’t need a tarp.
No seam-sealing required: Since you’re pairing it with a tarp, seam sealing is optional
Flexible: It’s possible to pitch the tent without trekking poles. Hammock campers know what I’m talking about. And on that note, if you want to switch back and forth between hanging a hammock or using a tent, this might be an affordable way to have both in your repertoire.
Ventilation: It’s called the Mesh House for a reason. Lots of mesh; good ventilation.
Side entry door: This is debatable, but to me a large, side-entry door is a perk compared to a head-entry door for a shelter this size.
Unique bathtub floor: As described in the features above, the unique design of the corners for this tent floor separate the Mesh House 1 from similar tents.
Affordable: Although it needs a tarp to be a rain-worthy shelter, this tent won’t break the bank. It’s more affordable than some of the other lightweight options out there—we see you, Dyneema.
Foot area: I’m 5’8”, and when I lie in this tent, there’s just not a way for me to lay naturally without my feet making contact with the sloping tent ceiling. Also, Florida proved to be a great testing region for this tent. I discovered that condensation will transfer from the sloped tent ceiling to my quilt where my feet are resting. I’m not sure if this would have happened if the design included mesh here in place of the current material. Secondly, I know some hikers like to place things (their pack, for instance) under their feet to elevate their legs at night as part of their recovery or sleep routine. That’s not a possibility in this tent.
Interior space: If you’re looking for plenty of room to stash gear or stretch out, this isn’t the tent for you. It is more spacious than a bivy, and that’s about the end of it. I mentioned headroom in the features, but it’s worth noting that if you’re taller than me (at 5’8”) you will have a hard time sitting up.
Overall, the lightweight shelter offers flexible options when it comes to pitching the tent and offers bug protection, but the weight reduction offers little interior room. To me, this tent is for someone who wants more than a bivy, but is still looking for a lightweight and affordable option. Perhaps even a hammock camper who wants the option to take a tent out on certain trips but doesn’t want to break the bank. The Thru-Hiker Mesh House 1 should be able to integrate with almost any tarp setup.
The foot area of the tent is the one drawback in recommending this shelter, especially in an environment where condensation will be an issue. For backpackers, this could be hit or miss depending on the region. Since condensation is nothing new to hikers, this could be minor, but still something to consider.
Low frills yet practical, I recommend checking out the MSR Thru-Hiker Mesh House 1 if you don’t see yourself in a bivy but you still want to go lightweight and have the flexibility of a tarp/shelter combination.
Size: 114 inches by 96 inches
Material: 20D ripstop nylon 1200mm Xtreme Shield
Speaking of tarp/shelter combinations, the 70 Wing does the job nicely. The red grommets on either end of the tarp mid-point are a really convenient, lightweight way to pitch with trekking poles and just as easy if you decide to pitch without poles. There’s plenty of room under the 70 Wing sized at 96” x 114” so your solo expedition can turn into a duo or a trio of hikers anytime.
Also worth noting is the Xtreme Shield™ weatherproof coating on the tarp which should last for years. The tarp includes tent stakes and weighs in at 12oz (16oz with stakes & stuff sack on my scale) making it a great pair for the Mesh House 1 or on it’s own with a host of other tarp-friendly setups.
Both of these shelters are priced at or just under $300, which is in the ballpark for what the Thru-Hiker Mesh House 1 will run you if you also purchase a tarp.
Although not a tarp/shelter combo, Gossamer Gear’s The One is less than 30 ounces, including rain protection and has great features.
Similarly, ZeroGram’s ZERO1 Pathfinder is a one-person single-wall tent with a side-door entry that weighs in at just over 22 ounces. The foot area in this tent won’t wet your feet, but the sidewalls aren’t as taut like the MSR Thru-Hiker Mesh House, so there’s some trade-off.
This product was donated for purpose of review.
This website contains affiliate links, which means The Trek may receive a percentage of any product or service you purchase using the links in the articles or advertisements. The buyer pays the same price as they would otherwise, and your purchase helps to support The Trek's ongoing goal to serve you quality backpacking advice and information. Thanks for your support!
To learn more, please visit the About This Site page.